Big-Time Teacher Salute from a Former International School Student

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Dear international teachers,
From 5th grade through graduation I attended schools in 4 countries and loved nearly every minute of it.  My parents were both international school teachers and together we got to see the world. I have beautiful rose-colored memories of sights and cultures experienced over a childhood spent globe-trotting.  Now, as an adult with children of my own, I recently ventured into the online world to wallow in nostalgia and, perhaps, take the career leap into international teaching myself.

Of course, within minutes of searching for international schools I stumbled upon International Schools Review.  Out of curiosity I joined and began reading reviews of random schools.  Let me tell you, I was floored!  Maybe my family was lucky, or maybe my parents did a good job of shielding me from the up-close realities of teaching at these schools, but I had no idea that so many of you went through such mistreatment and abuse!

When I look back, I suppose I can see some of the issues that arose from living overseas:  I remember long hours spent in 3rd-world airports, disappointing housing accommodations in a new country, and seemingly endless days and paperwork in waiting rooms to get passports stamped, visas supplied, doctor’s appointments completed and immunizations provided.  Each new location was greeted with lots of embarrassing cultural exchanges, miscommunication and a constant, nagging feeling of being lost while navigating a new city, a new school, unfamiliar school standards, unknown classmates/peers, and a totally different way of interacting with others in my school and community. And all this discomfort was just for me as a child.

When I read on ISR what teachers have to deal with, the administrations of these international schools sound especially unpleasant.  In hindsight, I imagine that some of the rich, overly indulged kids I experienced as peers were probably very challenging to have as students.  I am sure that many of the filthy rich parents who welcomed me into their lavish, sometimes obscenely so, homes were demanding and awful to tangle with, especially if the director took their side in the battle. I can’t imagine working with few materials, missing paychecks, vendettas by insecure administrators, and/or maltreatment of local staff.

After some time reading ISR as a member, I must say that I am sincerely impressed with you all as a community.  Never once as a student did I get the impression that my teachers were being put through the ringer. To smile and inform a classroom of children while left unsupported and unappreciated by the school/parents/students themselves is a Herculean feat.  I know that in international schools I was given a great education by a group of creative, inspirational teachers who truly cared.  So whatever you all are going through day-to-day, remember that you ARE changing and shaping lives for the better.  Without a doubt I know I am a better person for all you did for us students, and I absolutely salute you!
Thank you!

A former international student

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15 Responses to Big-Time Teacher Salute from a Former International School Student

  1. Dear Original Poster,

    thank you. After all the other posts, there is not much I can add but just to say thank you.

    An international teacher.

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  2. oompah18 says:

    What a great post! As an international teacher who has put her children through both extremes of school, I was beginning to wonder if it was time to return home, for my sanity and children’s sakes! But it is true, it is not just the international schooling that is a great experience in itself, but the whole cultural immersion, new languages and all. I hope my kids will look back on these years with as much appreciation as much the original poster. Thanks for writing!

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  3. Don Ries says:

    My wife and I spent 26 years at 5 overseas schools, and all were good to excellent. All had some problems, but what institution made up of people does not? A number of reviews we have read seem to be written by folks without the requisite flexibility and openness needed to teach internationally. Many seem to be looking for a duplicate of home in a foreign country, obvously the wrong choice. Yes there are poorly run schools, but if you are at one, what are you doing about it? Yes, the kids are the reason we do it, at home or overseas.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Our children spent many years in and graduated from the international school we taught in. They both thank us for the experience. We then moved to two other schools over the ensuing years after our youngest graduate. All were well known schools with decent to great packages. First, the top tier schools get very, very few reviews, good or bad. While there were minor issues at all of the schools we were in, only one had a true governance issue and we bailed as soon as we could. That one had also reached a nadir and it began improving about a year after we left. So many of the reviews of schools on ISR helped me see that, boy, we could have had it much worse than we did, even at the school with serious problems. So, you are unlikely to get reviews, good or bad, of schools that are OK or better.

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  5. Lise says:

    It’s such an interesting topic. I wonder what my own daughters would say about their upbringing over many years in two excellent international schools. I know they consider a local lady who was their care-giver, a member of the family, and still phone her often to chat. Their upbringing was so foreign to my own, but that’s what drew us to stay overseas. What fabulous experiences are available to children who grow up in countries, not their own! I believe the disadvantages are far out-weighed by the advantages. Who can put a price on, not only being fluent in two languages, but knowing the nuances of two different cultures?

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  6. Anonymous says:

    So are you still thinking about a career in international teaching?

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  7. Helena says:

    Thank you for your beautiful letter and articulating your feelings about your surprise of people’s realities of working in different environments.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Not all the school reviews are negative…..the great schools don’t seem to get those kind of reviews…be interesting to know which schools you attended and what your parents as teachers experienced. Of course if they raised a fine, thoughtful child into this amazing woman then my guess is, they would only tell you the good stuff….thank you for those kind words and thoughtful insights.

    Yes, we love what we do and I must say I am an administrator who works hard to treat ALL of my staff with RESPECT, KINDNESS and APPRECIATION!

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    • Steve Alexander says:

      I agree with anonymous – I too as an administrator have worked hard to be fair and supportive of teachers both in and out of school. I taught for 15 years and for the past 17 have worked as a full time principal and school head. There are many concerned and excellent administrators working in international schools. I know there are also those who have treated their staffs without respect and I hope they leave this profession behind asap. Teachers are the heart and soul of any school. I let parents know that what makes a school great is mostly due to the dedication and care of good teachers.
      Steve Alexander

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  9. Duncan Urquhart says:

    Thank you. The most under-utilised words in teaching. Recently I have done relief teaching at an Australian high school and as the students file out many of them personally thank you for the lesson–a seemingly-small thing but much-valued nonetheless.
    Try it today.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    It is hard to write reviews because often time the information a teacher would use to support their views in a review can be information used to personally identify them. So then a few years later when the teacher is applying for a job all it takes is for their former admin supervisor to say to a potential school’s admin at a job fair is one or two words about posting on ISR. There are absolutely NO safeguards to protect international teachers against slander. Essentially international education as a career is the wild west.

    I have worked at 6 international schools. Of the 6 schools only 1 was a good school to work at. During those 6 years I have been subjected to a variety of really unpleasant situations. I have to say though that the students at all my schools were terrific people and that is why I keep teaching.

    As a child I attended schools overseas mostly in the US Military school system but also a few private international schools. My teachers were my entire world. Because when a child lives overseas usually the only adults in their world are their parents and their teachers. The rest of the family is far away and there may be a language barrier preventing the child from connecting with local adults who could temporarily take the place of missing family members. I am quite old, maybe all of this has changed with the advent of free technologies for communication like skype. When I was living overseas no one could afford a phone call unless it was Christmas and then we got to talk for 2 minutes with each grandparent (Mom held a kitchen timer at the post office since there was no phone in our home and when it went off that was the end of the conversation). Getting a letter once a month was the big connection with family back home.

    So for me, I choose to teach internationally to help pay back the generous gifts given to me by my outstanding international teachers. They took the place of aunts and grandmothers to help shape the person I am today. For us those teachers were family but regrettably I don’t think we ever told them.

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  11. Rebecca Williams says:

    Wow. I’m working at a rough school right now (thankfully I’m leaving in June, along with 81% of my UE colleagues) and this is exactly what I needed to hear! Thank you SO much! I’m glad to hear that there are students who carry positive international school memories into adulthood! 😊

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  12. Lynn says:

    Did you talk to your parents about their experiences in the schools they taught at, which you attended?

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  13. Reyjw says:

    Thank you for your kind memories. I have taught in four international schools. I wrote a positive review for one and there were so many correct, negative reviews for two others that I did not feel the need to pile on. Some schools are truly heck in which to work. Those are the ones for which writing a review is easy, which is probably why so many of the reviews here lean that way. I am currently at a very nice international school that is trying to improve, but that is meeting with fierce parent resistance on one issue–and sadly, if the parents were aware of all the facts, they would fully support the decision made. I do not know what I would write about my current school…

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    • Anonymous says:

      The students are the reason we do it – and I would not want another job. You probably were a dream to teach as well. Thank you for responding.

      Like

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